On this day…29 January

On 29 January 1934 Joyce appears on the front cover of Time magazine.

This issue of Time magazine not only had Joyce on the front cover but also devoted a lengthy article, ‘Ulysses Lands,’ to welcoming the publication of the first legal and authorised edition of Joyce’s Ulysses in America, indeed in any English-speaking country. The book, like it’s namesake, had travelled long to get there, the article said: “…last week a much-enduring traveler, world-famed but long an outcast, landed safe and sound on U.S. shores. His name was Ulysses.”

Noting that there are many more gossipers about Ulysses than readers, the article frankly admitted that it is a dirty book, and that nothing but DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover compared with it for “barnyard and backhouse terms.” However,  it also claimed that this “stream-of-consciousness Bible” written by “Arrogant Author Joyce” is confusing, not because it doesn’t have a plan but rather because it has too much plan. And the key to the plan, it pointed out, is in the correspondences with the Odyssey.

The article noted that though Ulysses would never be a bestseller, it was already being acclaimed as “a work of genius and a modern classic,” and added: “For readers to whom books are an important means of learning about life, it stands preeminent above modern rivals as one of the most monumental works of the human intelligence.”

Giving a brief account of the writing and publication history of Ulysses, and adverting to the piracy of the book by Samuel Roth, it also claimed that Ulysses could not have been published in Ireland where, according to a quote from Joyce, “Some very kind person bought out the entire edition [of Dubliners] and had it burnt.” There was also a mention of the sale of the manuscript of Ulysses in New York in 1924 when it fetched a price of $1,975 or “about half a cent a word.”

In assessing Joyce himself, the article claimed that he was neither “a dirty-minded old man [nor] a young crackpot,” and it concluded by saying: “Enthusiasts have hailed James Joyce as an invigorator and inventor of language. But perhaps he will be longest remembered as the man who made ‘unprintable’ archaic.”

The front cover black-and-white portrait of Joyce on this issue of Time was by Marcel Maurel.


To see the front cover of Time click here